Paving project permit issued prematurely

WESTFIELD – The Planning Board approved, by a unanimous vote, permits to pave a Southampton Road restaurant parking lot Tuesday night, but failed to attach findings and conditions.
The state courts have established case law requiring that permit granting bodies, such as the Planning Board, City Council and Zoning Board of Appeals, attach conditions and findings to special permits.
The board voted to approve a special permit, site plan and stormwater management plan to pave an existing gravel parking lot at the rear of the Cafe Santorini located at 930 Southampton Road.
Typically the board discusses and approves conditions and findings prior to the permit vote, attaching those conditions and findings to the permits.
The property owner, Ali Abanoz of 117 Union St., Easthampton, submitted the project pave the gravel area to create 21 tractor-trailer parking spaces and an additional 18-passenger vehicle space. The tractor-trailer spaces are 12-by-65 feet to accommodate trucks with a 53-foot box and tractor.
Bryan J. Balicki, P.E. of Sage Engineering and Contracting Inc., said the project was initiated because the previous gravel lot, located over the Barnes Aquifer recharge area, is in violation of the city’s Water Resource Protection ordinance.
Project details were presented originally at the June 5 Planning Board session and continued to July 17 meeting because the board members requested modification of the project to include a fence around the infiltration basin.
The fence improves safety and protects the basin during snow removal.
The hearing continuation also allowed the city’s Engineering Department to verify the stormwater calculations that the stormwater management plan is designed to address.
Principal Planner Jay Vinskey brought the findings and conditions issue to the attention of the board, which discussed its options to bring their decision into line with case law. The board voted to request a legal opinion of how they should resolve the conflict.
Vinskey said Wednesday that he researched the issue, which he will verify with the Law Department, and determined that the board has 90 days, from the close of the public hearing, to act on the special permits, during which time it can vote to amend or modify its decision.
“The board is not supposed to act without findings and conditions, but it has 90 days to take final action,” Vinskey said.

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